RE: Kirk Caldwell's remark in H.S.A. that a train has the capacity of five buses
by Panos Prevedouros PhD www.FixOahu.Blogspot.com
When it comes to the rail, Kirk Caldwell and other politicians suffer from Wind Mill Deficiency.
You might think that I am referring to some Don Quixotic syndrome. But their Wind Mill Deficiency is actually more real and its effects on society are seriously deleterious.
While wind mills are rated at a high capacity such as 100 MW for a medium size wind farm, they come with a capacity factor. The capacity factor for wind mills is 0.3 and some argue that it should be as low as 0.2. (For reference, a coal or geothermal plant has a factor of over 0.9.)
This means that a wind farm of 100 MW has an actual electricity production between 20 MW and 30 MW.
Similarly for rail: A single elevated rail can carry 100,000 riders if a city buys enough trains and operates them very frequently, which means high acquisition, operation and maintenance costs.
The real question is this: After we spend the billions, will the riders come?
Miami and San Juan have the answer: No way Jose!
Same as the wind mills, only about a quarter of the stated capacity of rail is usually utilized. (Most of the rail riders are forced on the rail by bus route closures, as is the plan for TheBus.) This means that 75% of the investment does no good for the city that paid for it.
The advantage of buses and BRT is that you only route as many buses meet the demand and no more. BRT is a far more flexible, demand-responsive and economical way to provide public transit, particularly for cities with modest populations.
Senator Inouye stated that: “Governor Cayetano does not understand that the precious $1.55 billion for Honolulu rail is not transferable but will go back to the federal government.”
While I don’t speak for Ben Cayetano, I have been in many public meetings with him. He hasn’t stated that this amount will automatically revert to his transit proposal, but he mentions the President’s, Congress’ and FTA’s strong commitment and additional special funds in MAP-21 for Bus Rapid Transit.
The plan for the federal $1.55 Billion of the senator-supported rail is predictable: If the check ever arrives, it will be endorsed and mailed to Ansaldo in Italy and New York state were they design and build trains, respectively.
If Kirk Caldwell and Senator Inouye are really interested in improving transit in the county of Honolulu, they may begin their education on the history of elevated rail in sunshine cities by simply reading Wikipedia's article on the Miami Metrorail, and my summaries of San Juan’s Tren Urbano.
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Miami’s Elevated Heavy Rail
They got 80% Federal funds.
Still they run out of money due to cost overruns.
Six years after opening, it reached 25% of its forecast ridership!
They too ordered from Ansaldo.
After the initial segment of the single Green Line opened, Metrorail's saw less than 10,000 riders per day. This increased to 15,000 after the rest of the line and stations opened in late 1984 and 1985.
After running out of money due to cost overruns, the originally planned to be 50 miles system consisting of several lines was never completed, and lack of transit-oriented development along the single line led to the system being regarded as a boondoggle.
During the 1990s, ridership growth was relatively stagnant, however, and Metrorail remained the subject of criticism. At this time, ridership was up to about 50,000 per day, about a quarter of the original ridership estimate.
Miami-Dade may have violated federal regulations in the $300 million deal by favoring Italy-based Ansaldo Breda over Ithaca, New York-based CAF-USA, itself an American branch of the Spain-based CAF Industries Inc., as AnsladoBreda was willing to open a local factory in Miami-Dade County to manufacture the vehicles. This violation could render the deal ineligible for federal…. (WIKIPEDIA)
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Island Heavy Rail Calamity: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Huge escalation of construction costs (+74%).
Huge escalation of combined bus and rail operation and maintenance cost after the line was opened (+250%).
Downgrade of Puerto Rico’s bond ratings.
Dramatic decline of total transit ridership (bus and rail) because the Tren cannibalized their bus
It is now more than five years since its opening and Tren has not reached 50% of its opening year forecast ridership!